After struggling for ten years to become financially viable, the pastor and parish trustees have recommended that the Academy of Sts. Peter and Paul in Loretto be closed at the end of the current school year. The recommendation has been accepted with regret by Archbishop John C. Nienstedt.
Due to ongoing declines in enrollment, the Academy was among those schools included in the Archdiocese’s Urgent Review process announced last October. As a result of this process, school leaders set a final deadline of May 6 for achievement of a minimum enrollment goal for the 2011-2012 school year of 96 students. That goal was missed by a wide margin, despite a marketing and recruiting campaign, necessitating today’s closing announcement.
In a letter to parents and parishioners, Father John Gallas, pastor of the parish, wrote, “In spite of our very best efforts, we did not make our goal. This parish has valiantly and willingly carried the financial burden of the school for many years, but at the present time, the burden exceeds our capacity to give.”
Father Gallas told school parents that a meeting for all parents will be held next week. Representatives from neighboring Catholic schools and the Archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Schools will also be in attendance. Since the parish has always set aside a percentage of its offertory income to support the Academy, the pastor explained that a portion of these funds will now be used to assist parents to continue their children’s education in neighboring Catholic schools. All families seeking assistance in finding a Catholic school which meets their needs are invited to call the Catholic Schools Hotline at 612-SCHOOLS (612-724-6657).
The Academy began the urgent review process in October 2010 with the forming of a local school task force. The local task force engaged in careful analysis and review of data related to financial management, academic quality, Catholic identity (adherence to archdiocesan religion standards and other guidelines), and advancement (marketing, development), as outlined in the Strategic Plan under the criteria for viable schools. The urgent review process included an open meeting with school families and other stakeholders at the school during which the local task force detailed the status of the school as relates to each of the viability criteria.
Beginning next fall, there will be 94 Catholic schools within the Archdiocese. During the 2010-2011 school year, more than 30,000 students are attending Catholic schools in the Archdiocese. Catholic school enrollment trends generally mirror that of public schools which are also challenged with a decline in school age population.
The Archdiocese remains firmly committed to Catholic schools, which offer benefits not only to students and families through excellent education of the whole child, but also to the greater community. Catholic schools in the Archdiocese save Minnesota taxpayers roughly 300 million dollars annually in costs related to public school education. Catholic schools have a 98% graduation rate.